How to Ship Clothing: A Merchant’s Guide to Apparel Fulfillment 

Published on March 27, 2024
Written by
Filed under Shipping Basics
Read time 11 Minutes

Shipping clothes isn’t the most complicated thing. However, there are some key features that make it unique when compared to other types of merchandise. For instance, you may ship some items in poly bags. Whereas heavier parcels require more rigid packaging. With a variety of shipping services to choose from, the right one can be difficult to select. Luckily, there are helpful tools and shipping calculators that help you find the most affordable and quickest option. Whether you’ve just started selling or are needing to find a more efficient way to ship your clothing, ShipStation is here to help you make sense of fulfillment.

Continue reading below

How to Package Clothes for Shipping

Packing Clothes in Mailers or Poly Bags

A common packaging for many types of durable, lightweight clothing is to use a poly bag. They are affordable, durable, and easy to ship. Single-item orders of things like teeshirts, athletic shorts, lightweight pants, skirts, socks, underwear, etc. don’t need protection from the elements. However, multi-item orders may need additional protection.  

Packing Delicate Materials in Boxes 

Boxes provide extra support for clothing that could rip poly bags. Coats, denim, and other heavy materials are generally shipped in boxes to avoid damages. Additionally, vintage clothing and more delicate fabrics can become damaged in poly bags. Another situation where it’s a good idea to move up to a box is if you are shipping multiple teeshirts or other lightweight items at a time. 

ShipStation also partners with Onyx Products for shipping supplies like printers and scales.

Cheapest Way to Ship Clothes  

Cheapest Way to Ship Clothing Weighing Less than 1 lb

First Class Mail is generally the most affordable way to ship parcels weighing less than 16 ounces. Parcels weighing this little are also the strongest candidates for poly bags or bubble mailers. 

Cheapest Way to Ship Clothing Weighing Under 3 lbs

Services like UPS® Ground and USPS Priority Mail will frequently be the best options for shipping clothing weighing less than 3 lbs. UPS® from ShipStation drives discounts down further than you’d typically encounter from a standalone UPS account too. The destination address’s shipping zone will frequently be what determines the most affordable shipping service. 

ShipStation is built for online sellers and ecommerce business owners. But, if you only need to ship a few pieces of clothing, try ShipBot! You get many of the same discounts available through ShipStation, but it’s made for smaller volume shippers. Best of all, you can use it for free!

Cheapest Way to Ship Clothing Weighing Over 3 lbs

For clothes weighing over 3 lbs, UPS® Ground will frequently offer the most affordable shipping options. As mentioned above, UPS® from ShipStation offers substantial discounts on UPS® Ground and many other services. You can save up to 77% on UPS Ground® and 82% on UPS international services. We also offer many more discounts from other carriers

Cheapest Way to Express Ship Clothing 

Express shipping on clothing usually means using day-definite service from providers like UPS or FedEx. With ShipStation, you get discounts on express shipping options like UPS 2-Day®. These discounts can be as much as 69% off retail rates. 

Cheapest Way to Ship Clothes Internationally

International shipping has a lot of variables that impact rates. However, First Class Mail International often has low rates for parcels weighing less than 4.4 lbs. With ShipStation, First Class Mail International partners with GlobalPost to help reduce rates even further. Keep in mind that using this service can take a couple of weeks or longer to reach its final destination. 

To find the best available international shipping rates, head to our international shipping guide to discover more. ShipStation offers discounts on international shipping of up to 82% on UPS or 75% off DHL Express. 

Continue reading below

“We’re saving real, meaningful dollars on each shipment. Plus, we are getting smarter about how to ship and pack efficiently, as well as which provider to use for various different geographic regions.”

-Annabel Fowler, CEO of Suitably

How to Charge for Shipping Clothing

Shipping clothes is usually pretty straightforward. You’ll find that calculating shipping for your orders will let you know what your profit margins will allow. There are a few options that work well. Some work in your customers’ favcor and some are better for the merchant. 

How to Offer Standard Shipping for Clothing 

Standard shipping is often provided as a flat-fee shipping option. This works well because customers won’t face surprises. Having a sliding scale of shipping rates for different items may be a good way to protect your profit margins, but it can cause customers to hesitate and not buy. Some clothing purchases—especially online—can be impulse buys. Anything that gives a customer hesitation may result in a lost sell. Using something like “shipping is $6.99 for items under $75.” is a good way to get cart conversions while also incentivizing them to reach a threshold for free shipping.

Why Charging Threshold Shipping Works

As mentioned above, a threshold of $75, or $50, or whatever you choose, is a good way to encourage more sales. If you sell items with lower costs like teeshirts, a lower cost like $50 or $75 is more common—particularly since they are low-weight. Three teeshirts can still be shipped out for under 1 lb with First Class Mail. These pricing thresholds should work in your customer’s advantage, but also your own. 

It allows customers to get free shipping if they place an order above a certain cost. Generally, it’s a little higher than your average order total. This can be a way to get another item added to the cart. Advertising low cost items with high-profit margin in-cart can be an easy way to reduce surplus inventory as well as increase profits. 

How to Offer Free Shipping on Clothing

If you can offer free shipping by injecting a little bit of the shipping cost into the item, do that. Our research study found that 56% of Americans expect free shipping in order to place an order. If you want to make these sales, you have to accept that your profit margin will narrow. Threshold shipping can be a way to get the best of both worlds, though. 

How to Ship Returned Clothing

Returns are an unfortunate part of running a clothing business—especially ecommerce. You have to deal with things like customers buying multiple items to see which one fits and returning the rest. While some merchants have embraced the try before you buy model, it can become taxing. The first thing you need to do to deal with returns is to set up a solid return policy. From here, you need to figure out how to approve, initiate, and receive returned merchandise. One way you can do this is by using a returns portal like the one ShipStation offers. 

How ShipStation Helps You Ship Clothing

Automatically Apply Shipping Service and Package Type

Different types of clothing require different services and packaging. As weight increases, you may need to switch from First Class Mail to something like USPS Priority Mail or UPS® Ground. Additionally, it turns shipments that only needed a poly bag into something requiring a more durable cardboard box. 

ShipStation gives you the tools you need to automatically apply the shipping service and package type to all of your orders as soon as they import. This takes the guesswork out of shipping and helps you save time and money. 

Automatically Adjust Package Weight

As item quantity increases and packaging changes, packing weight increases. Whether you need to upgrade to a box from a poly bag or add additional void fill, these are common adjustments that you may forget to add when shipping. Luckily, ShipStation lets you create rules that adjust order weight to accommodate these increased weights.


Continue reading below

Save on Shipping Costs

Shipping clothes can become more expensive than you expect. But there are always things you can do to make shipping cheaper. This is particularly true if you are shipping shoes, coats, or other heavy items. Additionally, you can break into international markets more easily if you have affordable shipping rates. ShipStation gives you access to discounts on a variety of shipping services: 

  • 89% off USPS Priority Mail
  • 77% off UPS® Ground
  • 82% off UPS® International services
  • 75% off DHL Express

To start saving on shipping clothing, apparel, or whatever else you sell, sign up for a free ShipStation trial today! 

Written by

James Messer

James Messer is a copywriter specializing in shipping, logistics, and ecommerce.

Want to learn more about ShipStation?